Celebrity Chefs Create Haute Cuisine from Food Pantry Staples


From left, Chefs Ralph Martin, Jay Jones and Anthony Scillieri (cq) prepare food for a demonstration at The Salvation Army Family Services, in Las Vegas.

By Nancy Golden, Donor Relations Assistant

For food insecure families, the Choice Food Pantries of The Salvation Army (TSA) of Central Ohio are critical in supplementing what food gets put on the table. Although TSA does, unlike many food pantries, offer a range of products to select from, options are still limited to what is donated or purchased by TSA. Sometimes it is a challenge to cobble together something nutritious and delicious. For some ideas on how to “spice up” mundane ingredients, we look to what TSA Family Services in Las Vegas, Nevada is doing. Its pantry recently began hosting cooking demonstrations complete with – Voila! – Celebrity Chefs to the Rescue!
Celebrity chefs are joining forces to show how food pantry staples can be used to create nutritional and even “gourmet” meals. Clients of TSA food pantries are offered different ideas about how to use the food they have.

One of the chefs, Chef Jay Jones, has his own restaurant, a background in Cordon Bleu, and he teaches at the Las Vegas Culinary Academy. His recipes begin with items that are regular fare at TSA food pantries; he then combines pantry staples with budget-friendly seasonings (from the dollar store) and ingredients that most people are likely to have at home.

Here’s a typical example of Chef Jones’ culinary inventions:

Five Spice Ramen Noodles with Sesame Meatballs


1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
2 packages Ramen noodles
Salt and pepper, to taste.


In a large bowl, mix beef, breadcrumbs, onion powder, sesame oil and garlic powder until combined. Roll into ½-inch meatballs (larger if you like). Put on sheet pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until brown and done (155 degrees internal temperature).

Bring 4 cups water to a boil add five-spice powder. Add Ramen (do not add seasoning packets; the seasonings that come with Ramen are not very healthy) and meatballs. Cook until Ramen is done.

Right now at TSA in Central Ohio, at 966 East Main Street in Columbus, there are a lot of sweet potatoes available in our Choice Food Pantry. We found a simple recipe that’s tasty and healthy to serve at your holiday feasts this season.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch


3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, ground, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 cup dried cranberries

6 tablespoons butter, cut up, divided

1/2 cup flour

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, orange juice, and vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon each of the cinnamon and ginger, and salt in large bowl. Add sweet potatoes; toss to coat well. Spoon into 13×9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with cranberries. Dot with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix flour, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and ginger in medium bowl. Cut in remaining 4 tablespoons butter with a fork until coarse crumbs form. Stir in pecans. Remove sweet potatoes from oven and stir gently. Sprinkle evenly with pecan topping.

Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes longer or until sweet potatoes are tender and topping is lightly browned.

Happy Thanksgiving from The Salvation Army in Central Ohio!


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